Evgeni Plushenko has said figure skating fans can expect even more shocks after European Champion Alena Kostornaia left rival Russian coach Eteri Tutberidze to join the former Olympic star’s team.
Tutberidze took to social media on Friday to announce that she was parting ways with Kostornaia, 16, expressing her frustration at the decision.
The news follows the departure from Tutberidze’s team earlier this year of Russian teenage quad-jumping sensation Alexandra Trusova, who switched to join Plushenko’s academy in a decision that sent shockwaves through the Russian figure skating world and started talk of an all-out civil war between coaches.
Speaking on Kostornaia’s move, double Olympic gold medalist Plushenko rejected claims that he had initiated the step, but said fans should not be surprised if even more stars jump ship.
“There will be more sensations… Even then (after the arrival of Trusova) I meant that very good athletes will come to us,” he told RIA Novosti.
“The doors of my school are always open. We are open to dialogue and ready to work with any athlete… There will be (more) sensations, this is just the beginning. There are a lot of amazing athletes in the world of figure skating, and I’m not talking about foreigners.”
Explaining Kostornaia’s departure, Tutberidze had claimed the star had drawn up a ‘black list’ of fellow skaters she did not want to train with – although Plushenko dismissed that notion.
“This is complete nonsense, she was ready to train with everyone,” said the 37-year-old trainer.
“She has no problems, she’s ready to work with everyone, she takes all athletes very positively. She understands that partners are needed, she’s ready to be on the ice with everyone.”
The three-time world champion added that this includes new teammate Trusova, the 16-year-old quad-jumping sensation.
“We have the opportunity to skate on different sites, because I have enough ice. We’ll analyze the situation, because we haven’t started to work yet.
“Let’s see if we, the coaches, have time to work with them or not. If we don’t keep up, then we’ll divide them. If we need to – we’ll join them. We’re very flexible in this regard.”
Plushenko said that Kostornaia had joined his team because she was seeking “changes.”
“She wanted changes, she sees that we’re a strong team, she wants to grow further, learn quadruple jumps, wants to be given beautiful and interesting programs. She wants to completely change the team.
“In Russia, we have this attitude to transitions, as if something incredible has happened. This is a normal situation. It means that Alena couldn’t work there, something didn’t suit her there. Maybe an attitude. I wouldn’t want to inflate this story.
“The athlete’s made the decision to go. The Federation doesn’t mind, parents don’t mind, Alena agrees, this is her initiative. We supported this initiative and intend to move forward.”
In what some will take as a not-so-thinly-veiled shot at Tutberidze, Plushenko said that he would completely transform his new charge’s programs, calling the current versions “awful.”
“One hundred percent (we’ll change them)… We’ll make our own. What I’ve seen on Instagram from her recent programs is just awful. Alena doesn’t like it, she said so herself.”
Tutberidze’s methods have come under fire in some quarters – especially outside Russia – from critics who accuse her of creating a conveyor belt of champions using harsh methods with young skaters.
Her supporters, however, have pointed to Tutberidze’s stunning success at forging champion after champion, asserting that she simply harnessing the desire and determination inherent in her skaters, using a system that is no different to elsehwere around the world.